Courtney M Eckhardt cme at MIT.EDU
Fri May 5 13:10:51 EDT 2000

<geneticist hat>

With humans, if there are any Y chromosomes at all, the person looks male
to someone encouneting him on the street- it doesn't matter hos many X
chromosomes there are, except for puposes of fertility.  (Fertility can be
uncertain in cases of mixed up X and Y chromosomes.)

Genetically identical boy/girl twins aren't going to happen; what you'd
have, in that case, is a pair of fraternal twins that were *extremely*
similar looking- not impossible at all.  Siblings often look very similar
when you see picutres of both children taken at the same age (say, when
each child was five).  If you look at pictures of me and my youngest
sister, we look *identical* at the same age except for hair color- up
until we were five.

</geneticist hat>

Now you may argue that the chances of getting fraternal twin who looked
enough like each other to be called "identical" in a genetically-ignorant
age are very small, and you would be absolutely correct.  However... if
authors didn't take the interesting, unsual, exceptional, rare, and wildy
odd events and people to use in their stories, why would we read them?  If
authors took only the most commonplace occurances and used them in books,
all of today's fiction would be about middle-aged middle managers with
midlife crises, discontented wives, 2.7 child, and SUV, and a house in the
suburbs with a mortgage he can just barely pay.  We want to read about
exceptional people in unusual situations who manage to do amazing things
with their lives because it makes us feel a little special too.

To put it a slightly sifferent way, I was explaining some of the character
plots in a live roleplaying game to a fried at one point (live roleplaying
is when you and a buch of other people pretend to be fictional characters
with goals and plots and enemies and allies and whatnot).  I was taking
about all of the things that I had been gtrying to do in the game, and
things that other characters had wanted to get done, and commented that
you could tell when someone professed to be a cook that there was
something more going on there, because no one was really *just* a cook in
a live roleplaying game.  And my friend said "but that's messed up.
*Everybody* can't be extraordinary."  But who'd want to play in the game
if they were just going to play a cook, who did nothing more than cook the
food?  And why go to the trouble of writing the game, and then getting
people to play it if you're not going to write it about one of those
once-in-a-lifetime chances everyone wants to be a part of? 


My two cents. :)


In message <016e01bfb63f$5a291560$bcf411cb at sodgers>, "Sally Odgers" writes:
>>Nothing wrong with 'identical' boy-girl twins. *Shakespeare* used
>>identical boy-girl twins.
>>(Anyway, are they actually impossible, or just horrendously unlikely?)
>Shakespeare, (she said darkly) did a *lot* of things.
>I think they are *almost impossible. Identical twins come from the splitting
>of a group of cells that began as one potential child and develop into 2 (or
>more or less). hat's why they're invariably the same sex. Fraternal twins
>can be boy/boy  girl/girl or boy/girl. They're the result of two separate
>conceptions that happened at the same time. They're no more alike (except in
>size) than any two siblings.
>* I said "almost impossible" because unrelated or slightly related doubles
>do occur sometimes, just by a fluke. I suppose it might happen with twins.
>And, as I'm certain everyone here knows, Shakespeare had an ulterior motive
>for his disguised heroines. As G. Trease pointed out, it's easier for a boy
>actor to pretend to be a girl pretending to be a boy than to pretend to be a
>girl pretending to be a girl.
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